Chapter 1: Academic freedom in the modern British university: a historical perspective
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Finn offers a historical perspective on the evolution of vernacular understandings of academic freedom in Britain from the nineteenth century onwards, locates the immediate post-war decades as a pivotal moment - when successive governments promoted higher education expansion, and the Robbins Report offered a definition of academic freedom. It explores how the development of ideas of academic freedom in the UK university reflected the nature of British higher education's development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and its 'latecomer' status as a 'mass' sector. Higher education in Britain - and particularly in England - was self-consciously an 'elite', privileged sector well into the post-war period. Norms of academic freedom which evolved in this context drew on ideas of lehrfreiheit and lernfreiheit imported from nineteenth century Germany, but also - as Conrad Russell had noted - on the historical privileges of the church, particularly in the ancient universities. The spectre of war and totalitarianism loomed large on British policy elites in and out of the university, and academics were able to develop for themselves an understanding of academic freedom which positioned the university as a bulwark against totalitarianism. At the same time however, these conceptions were undermined by academics' 'idealist' thinking on the state, which paid insufficient attention to the potential inherent in the state-university relationship which bore treacherous fruit in the era of neoliberal marketisation. This historical study offers a critical examination both of vernacular understandings of academic freedom in a British context, and of the relationship of concepts of academic freedom - and their viability - to broader trends in British political culture.